04/01/2014 10:43 EDT | Updated 06/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Longtime B.C. Nurses' Union president Debra McPherson ousted

There has been a changing of the guard at the B.C. Nurses' Union after long-serving president Debra McPherson lost an election battle to Gayle Duteil.

McPherson became a registered nurse in 1972 and got involved with the B.C. Nurses' Union as early as 1981. She was elected president in 1990 and is the longest-serving president in the union's history.

Duteil has been a critical care nurse since graduating from Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing in 1983 and became active in the union during the 1989 strike.

It's part of a sweep of new people to the union's provincial executive council, although new vice-president Christine Sorensen says she's not sure if there was mood for change.

"I think all of our members are focused on the same thing ... good quality patient care, ensuring that the union is representing their rights both at the bargaining table and the work place," she said.

The contract for the union, which has 42,000 members, expired Tuesday. Sorensen now says negotiations will reflect their ongoing concerns about work load, staffing and patient care.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union was officially founded in February 1981 when the Labour Relations Division of the Registered Nurses Association of B.C. broke away from the RNABC, which was then the licensing body for registered nurses in B.C..